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BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — An animal rights group sent a box of coconuts to Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran and other company executives to draw attention to the use of captive monkeys to pick the fruits for a leading supplier of coconut milk.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is pressuring Albertsons, Fred Meyer and other grocery chains to stop selling Chaokoh brand coconut milk. PETA says the Thailand-based company Theppadungporn Coconut Co. mistreats its monkeys.
“It’s nuts for Albertsons to sell products made from coconuts picked by monkeys in Thailand who are chained, separated from their peers, driven insane, and kept in involuntary servitude for life,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a news release. “PETA wants to crack open Albertsons’ executives’ hearts and get them to do right by monkeys and customers by telling Chaokoh that they don’t buy animal abuse.”
Albertsons, the nation’s second-largest grocery chain, has not removed Chaokoh coconut milk from its store shelves. On Friday, it was also available through its Drive Up & Go program, where customers order groceries online and pick up at their local store.
“We take animal welfare very seriously, and we strive to maintain high animal welfare standards across all areas of our business,” spokesperson Chris Wilcox Anderson said by email. “We continue to work with our suppliers to ensure their continued compliance with our standards.”
In its Nov. 11 letter to Albertsons executives, PETA said it hoped to open a dialogue with the Boise-based grocer over PETA’s investigation, which began in 2019, into the use of monkey labor in the coconut industry.
“Our investigation revealed that Chaokoh is part of an industry that’s forcing monkeys — confined for life, sometimes with their teeth removed, always chained, and often driven insane from being deprived of everything that’s natural and important to them — to climb trees in order to collect coconuts,” PETA wrote. “It seems that most (if not all) of these animals are illegally captured from the forest as babies. Their training is extremely abusive.”
Last month, Costco announced it would stop stocking Chaokoh products. Costco followed similar actions by Walgreens, Food Lion, Giant Food and Stop & Shop, following pressure from PETA. Wegman’s, a New York grocery chain, announced Thursday that it too would stop selling the Thai brand’s coconut milk.
A spot check of Boise chain grocery stores found Chaokoh coconut milk only at Albertsons stores. It was not available at a WinCo on Fairview Avenue or in Walmart stores on Cole Road and at Chinden and State streets in Garden City, although it was available from Walmart’s website. Fred Meyer on Chinden Boulevard did not carry the brand, and it was not listed on its store pickup website.
Spokespersons from Walmart and Fred Meyer did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Friday. Kroger, Fred Meyer’s owner, has said it’s looking into the matter.
“Kroger has a longstanding commitment to responsible business practices, including the humane treatment of animals,” the nation’s largest grocery chain said in a statement to PETA. “We have re-engaged our suppliers, as well as other stakeholders, on this issue to re-confirm they are also protecting animal welfare.”
Whole Foods does not carry Chaokoh brand products, but the grocery store’s owner, Amazon, does.